FAS Intro: The following National Security Agency memorandum was obtained by the newsletter Defense Information and Electronics Report (Inside Washington Publishers, Washington, DC) and published in its 25 July 1997 issue.
11 July 1997
Reply to Attn of: N5P
Subject: Declassifying the "Fact of" SIGINT Collection from DoD Conventional Airborne Assets -- Action Memorandum (U)
1. The implementation in October 1995 of Executive Order 12958, Classified National Security Information, set forth an aggressive goal for declassification of information by the entire Intelligence Community. Under the Freedom of Information Act, NSA repeatedly has to defend withholding information by articulating the harm to National Security which would result if the information was disclosed.
2. While it is understood that one of NSA's foremost responsibilities is to protect its core secrets by withholding information which may reveal current sources, methods and capabilities, NSA must also balance this requirement with the need to be more open. In this regard, the Office of Policy has revisited the issue of declassifying the fact of SIGINT collection from DoD conventional airborne assets. Numerous open source documents already exist which reveal the fact that these aircraft are SIGINT-capable.
3. With the concurrence of NSA's Airborne Collection Management Office, the Office of Policy no longer can justify protecting the fact that these aircraft are capable of performing a SIGINT mission. However, specific details, such as operating locations, flight patterns, geographic missions, targets, and mission names will continue to be protected.
4. Effective immediately, the "fact of" airborne SIGINT and the SIGINT mission of the following current and historic "SIGINT-capable" airborne platform designators are declassified:
James P. Cavanaugh
Chief, Office of Policy